Cloud computing seems to be the buzz word in IT these days as companies are looking for the next big thing in computing. The IT folks at the leading companies are working hard to roll out these “clouds.” This emerging technology is gaining attention from major research institutions including Carnegie Mellon University. Lets not forget the likes of Google, IBM, and Microsoft who are amongst a large group of corporations investing time and money to mature this unique idea.
What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing is an idea that has been around for quite a while. It is the concept of spreading computing processes over several resources through a network. Servers and computers are not always utilized and tend to be inactive. The typical data center houses hundreds of servers where many will sit idle as neighboring servers take the brunt of the workload.
IT professionals claim that cloud computing has already become prevalent with the rise of virtualization. Several IT companies have adopted cloud computing with the advent of online applications. A great example is GoogleApps, a free office applications suite very similar to Microsoft office. This type of application is refereed to as SaaS (Software as a Service) and has been touted by the likes of Information Week. Here users can create and manipulate various documents in real time using the resources of Google’s cloud. Cloud computing is providing people with the capability to access powerful computing resources from devices like cell phones, laptops, and smart phones. Cloud computing should revolutionize data processing and mobile computing even further. This is just an example of the power of clouds, but where can it take businesses and how can investors reap it’s benefits?
The Investor Connection
Investors should keep an eye on clouds not only because companies can start expanding their service offerings over the Internet, but also because clouds can help reduce costs. Cloud computing helps IT cut infrastructure costs while adding new features and services to grow core businesses. Clouds can help grow margins as costs are cut back but service offerings are expanded. Clouds are being used for office applications, application development, and also complex tasks like risk calculations. Often times, corporations will have technology sitting idle in a building, using up resources, clouds now can utilize the power of these machines and put it to use. This will help businesses cut technology spending (hardware wise) and invest in software to efficiently distribute the workload across networks to harness the previously wasted computing power.
So let us recap, why do investors care about clouds:
- Cuts infrastructure costs, which can lead to margin expansion
- A part of the green initiative in IT
- Unlock computing power for complex situations
Who Is Investing in Cloud Computing?
Although cloud computing has been around in a very crude form before, companies are stepping up to actively develop high end cloud networks to offer services to customers. There are several large IT firms who are taking part in this revolution including Google, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, HP, Salesforce.com, Amazon , and Yahoo! Out of this elite group, Google and IBM hands down are positioned best to profit from the growth of cloud computing.
According to Bloomberg, IBM reported R&D costs at $1.6 million for the most recent quarter. I think it is safe to say that a substantial amount of the costs were devoted to further cloud related technology. Several computing processes rely on virtualization and resource sharing. In order to solidify clouds as a reliable force in data centers, IBM must develop the hardware and core software properly. Unveiling the Blue Cloud was a big step for the company as a it provides Web 2.0 services to corporations allowing networks to function like an Internet.
Google, another leader in the cloud computing space, is a direct customer of IBM’s hardware and software. Using IBM’s offerings, Google is strengthening its backend with investment in cloud technology. GoogleApps, is a great example of SaaS where the company has opened up it’s cloud to developers to author applications based on it’s infrastructure and even allows end users basic applications like spreadsheets, presentations, and word processing. CEO Eric Schmidt believes clouds are a core value to his company’s business and according to Information Week the company has spent over $2.0 billion on four data centers. Paired with IBM, Google seems to be the best software and service provider of clouds in the future.
It is important to stay on top of the trends in computing although they can often times be hard to understand. Google and IBM prove to be leaders in the software, services, and hardware aspects of this revolutionary idea. The global slowdown could affect these companies as they rely heavily on ad revenue (Google) and IBM who also relies heavily on international exposure. Just take my two cents and consider the developments in the field as the market continues to find a bottom and the bulls prepare to regain control next year.
– Santosh Sankar http://www.bullishbankers.com/
Originally posted on Bullish Bankers September 8, 2008
Disclosure: The mutual fund the author is associated with is long MSFT and GOOG. The author’s family is long IBM